Financial crisis 'forcing world's poorest children out of classroom'

By agency reporter
September 22, 2009

The Catholic aid agency CAFOD is calling on the G20 nations at Pittsburgh to "use their loaf", deliver their pledges made in April and "stop handing out crumbs" to the poorest nations.

In a new report; 'School’s out Forever' CAFOD claims that the G20 has again pushed the poorest to the back of the queue.

It highlights the experience of Zambia, voicing fears that up to 250,000 children, 8.9 per cent of all Zambian school children, could be forced to drop out of school as a result of the financial crisis.

This is the equivalent of 30,000 empty primary and secondary school classrooms across the UK.

Research conducted for the report by CAFOD's Zambian partner the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), with miners’ families in the copper belt area of Lusaka, revealed the plight of children whose educational futures are being wiped away, as many face the prospect of being put to work to help families put food on the table.

George Gelber, CAFOD's Senior Policy Advisor and author of the report said: “The shockwaves of the financial crisis continue to be felt. Poor families in poor countries are bearing the brunt of this crisis. With no choice but to withdraw children from school and skip meals, they are forced to put their children’s future at risk. Without education they will be denied decent jobs. Without adequate nutrition they will never achieve their full adult potential. They face instead a future of grinding poverty and missed opportunity.”

Humphrey Mulemba, a Policy Analyst with the JCTR, who worked with CAFOD on the report said: "Families are feeling the hardest edges of this financial crisis because they have nothing to cushion them. When family bonds snap, children, especially girls, become vulnerable to abandonment, forced to grow up on the streets or becoming enslaved into child labour and prostitution. Development aid has made some progress particularly in girls' education, but now we are walking backwards."

With tentative green shoots appearing, G20 leaders meeting in Pittsburgh will debate when to turn off the quantitative easing to their slowly recovering economies. But the pain for poor countries is just beginning, says Cafod. And the money taps are only delivering a trickle.

CAFOD says it wants to see a “yes we can” attitude from the chair of the summit, President Barack Obama, ensuring that G20 leaders deliver on the pledged $50 billion to support social protection, boost trade and safeguard development in developing countries and emerging markets.

As part of this $50 billion the, Rapid Social Response Fund, targeted at the very poorest, depends on voluntary contributions. But so far these are $400 million, amounting to only one per cent of the headline figure, with three quarters, $325 million (£200 million) coming from the UK. CAFOD wants to see the Rapid Social Response Fund boosted to £7.5billion – just half of the total recommended by the World Bank for social protection.

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